Dreams of Exile

by Ian Bell. Holt,296 pages, $25.00.
Mr. Bell is a frankly prejudiced biographer of Robert Louis Stevenson. He has no use for anyone—W. E. Henley, for example—who questioned his subject’s activities or accomplishments, and he resents the literary attempts of Stevenson’s wife while acknowledging her loyalty and courage. These animosities aside, Mr. Bell has produced a well-organized account of Stevenson’s progress from fragile only child to negligent student to nonpracticing lawyer to bohemian dilettante (his father was a patient man with a sound income) to successful, respected author. For a man plagued by illness, Stevenson covered an amazing amount of territory and did an astounding amount of work. His nomadic life is worth the attention Mr. Bell has given to reconstructing it.